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The Salem witch frenzy began in the home of an esteemed Puritan church leader named Samuel Parris.
The story of the Salem Witch Trials started from a long history of witchcraft beliefs. Witchcraft became prevalent in England during the 13th century. It was viewed as anti-religion and the cause of everyday problems in a person’s life. Witches were believed to have a covenant or pact with Satan and this would endow them with powers and gifts. Furthermore, the Devil had these witches as human minions to do his will. Being hexed or under an evil hand was a common belief in the England faith and this pertained to animals and human sickness and/or issues. They believed that someone could be afflicted by witchcraft in the same manner as you would catch a common cold today. An evil hand was seen as the source in someone’s life if anything unfortunate happened. Settlers arriving in the New World (United States of America) came with the Puritan religious belief system. Part of the beliefs they came with was in witchcraft as the settlers were deeply devoted to their faith. Puritans gathered at the religious center every Wednesday and Sunday. Reading the Bible and prayer was a very important daily component in the household.
The Witch Trials
In 1692, Salem, Massachusetts, was a hardworking, thriving, farm and fishing colonial town. Fear and corruption ran rampant in the United States due to a dark period in history. The Salem witch frenzy began in the home of an esteemed Puritan church leader named Samuel Parris. His young daughter Betty and his niece Abigail became afflicted with an unknown illness. The girls started having fits; including violent contortions and uncontrollable outbursts of screaming. They would go into convulsions and run towards the fireplace as if to jump in and set themselves on fire. They also had alleged unexplained bite marks on their bodies. Different doctors and physicians were called in and they were prayed over. The doctors believed that the girls were cursed under an evil hand and it was the Devil’s work. Moreover, the physicians did not believe these afflictions were natural, it was supernatural. Salem erupted into hysteria as leaders and members of the community demanded answers.
Magistrates, Jonathan Corwin, and John Hathorne were appointed to find the source of the afflictions. The witch hunt began in the home of Samuel Parris with his daughter and niece. The first person accused was Tituba, who was a family slave. She practiced voodoo and witchcraft from the Caribbean. She was arrested and brought to trial where she confessed. She disclosed that a dark man came to her and told her to serve him. She revealed that the dark man was the Devil and he told her to afflict the children. Spectral evidence was the sole basis on which the court could determine if someone was a witch or not.
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According to USLegal.com, the definition of spectral evidence is:
“Spectral evidence refers to a witness testimony that the accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location. It was accepted in the courts during the Salem Witch Trials. The evidence was accepted on the basis that the devil and his minions were powerful enough to send their spirits, or specters, to pure, religious people in order to lead them astray. In spectral evidence, the admission of victims’ conjectures is governed only by the limits of their fears and imaginations, whether or not objectively proven facts are forthcoming to justify them. [State v. Dustin, 122 N.H. 544, 551 (N.H. 1982)].”
Tituba was jailed for a year and sold as a slave avoiding the death penalty. In the beginning, the arrests were towards the weak and desolate individuals of society. Later, the arrests were directed toward members who had wealth and status. More girls in the community became ill and made accusations of witchcraft. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop. She was a landowner with a successful apple orchard. She made conflicting statements during her trial and was hung from a tree. Everyone in Salem was at risk of being charged with witchcraft. In the end, over 190 people had informal charges against them, five died in prison (including a child) and 19 men and women were hanged. The root of the Salem Witch Trials was later found to be fear and greed. People were being put on trial and all of their personal property and livestock were confiscated and seized by officials.
Present-Day Paranormal Activity
Over 300 years later, there has been reported paranormal activity in various hot spots around Salem, MA. Paranormal activity has been reported mainly in four locations: the home of a witch trial magistrate, a family-oriented restaurant, a cemetery, and the site of the hangings. These hot spots are filled with an unexplained phenomenon that is forever linked to the witch trials and executions.
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